exclusives | April 28, 2016

Lavin Weekly #35: Jackson, Seaman, Robison, & Heffernan

1. Prison to the Pen: Mitchell S. Jackson’s The Residue Years Comes to Vimeo

New Lavin speaker and TED Fellow Mitchell S. Jackson garnered high praise for his debut book The Residue Years—it won the Ernest J. Gaines Award and secured him fellowships from the Center for Fiction and the Lannan Foundation. And now, the book’s accompanying documentary is available on Vimeo via Literary Hub. But where the book is only semi-autobiography, the documentary is all Jackson. In The Residue Years, Jackson recalls his young life on the rough side of Portland, slinging crack cocaine to help his single mother make ends meet. Twenty years later, after a stint of incarceration and a life renewed in writing and academia (Jackson earned his MFA and now teaches at NYU and Columbia), the acclaimed author seeks to capture the struggle on film—and to help others avoid the pitfalls of poverty and drugs. In a new interview with Vibe, Jackson details his bleaker days, and offers hope to anyone fighting to stay off the streets: “This story affirms that we can’t be afraid of assiduity. That not all success will happen overnight. It’s like a field of dreams; ‘If you build it they will come.’”

2. Camille Seaman’s New Kickstarter Project, “All My Relations” Reaches Funding Goal

Congratulations to photographer and activist Camille Seaman. Her upcoming project “All My Relations,” in which she’ll trek across America to capture the stories of proud and resilient Native Americans—has reached its initial funding goal. The Kickstarter campaign, which stays live until May 23rd, has shattered the $6900 originally sought—and it’s well on its way to $10,000. But don’t stop giving yet: backers are eligible to receive all kinds of unique perks courtesy of Seaman, including personalized postcards, digital images, prints, beaded bags and moccasins, and more. As a photographer, Seaman is renowned—her work has been featured in National Geographic, TIME, and The New York Times. And as a keynote speaker, she’s even more impactful, documenting the melting polar ice caps in a series of haunting photos.

3. Flipping the Switch: John Elder Robison Interviewed by PBS NewsHour

John Elder Robison recently sat down with PBS NewsHour to tell his one-of-a kind story. Growing up, Robison was shy, reclusive, and couldn’t relate to anyone—and he never understood why.  But at the age of 40, a chance encounter with a therapist resulted in a life-changing diagnosis: Asperger syndrome. And when the therapist suggested he try an experimental new treatment aimed at emotional centres in the brain—called transcranial magnetic stimulation—Robison rolled the dice. Literally overnight, he was able to see a world of feelings he never believed existed. Robison’s life-changing experience spurred him to write his bestselling memoir Switched On, which The New York Times calls “an eye-opening book with a radical message.” In fascinating and unforgettable keynotes, Robison details his night-and-day emotional awakening, and reminds us that being different is both a blessing and a curse.

4. Trump and Obama Go Social: Virginia Heffernan for Politico

Virginia Heffernan sees the Internet in a singular way: it’s a behemoth of modern culture, and it’s changed the way we view everything—from ideas to language to art. In this week’s Politico, she examines the rise of two media—YouTube and Twitter—and how they’ve shaped the campaigns of two modern presidential candidates. Prior to the 2008 election, Barack Obama leveraged the fledgling YouTube to reach a wider audience. But his decided aloofness and his seemingly calculated distance from the media gave him an inaccessible air, and one that he’s carried through two terms in the White House. In contrast, Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign is a semi-scripted, hyper-available embrace of Twitter. While past candidates would have been sunk by political gaffes, Trump takes his own in stride.  But Heffernan’s ultimate takeaway is this: “It turns out that ‘unvarnished’ can be just as calculated a public persona as ‘varnished’.” For an illuminating keynote on ever-evolving Internet culture, book Virginia Heffernan today.

To hear Mitchell S. Jackson and John Elder Robison’s moving stories, Virginia Heffernan’s take on Internet culture, or to see Camille Seaman’s multimedia presentation, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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politics | April 27, 2016